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Monday, April 21, 2014

Skorneg - "Foehn"

Artist: Skorneg
Album: Foehn
Year: 2014
Label: Malignant Records
Genre: Drone
Website: www.malignantrecords.com

Skorneg is the new side-project of extremely talented Frederic Arbour (Cyclic Law, Visions, Instincts, Havan). This time he teams up with the project Skinwell. This particular album is based around cold, minimal, drones meant to invoke feelings of glaciers, icy winds, barren landscapes, etc. It contains only four tracks, each of which are 9-12 minutes in length. For whatever reason it was released on the US label Malignant Records instead of Arbour's own Cyclic Law.

Ironically, the last review posted (Mystified) was lamenting the downfalls of an album of minimal drone which didn't quite have that "it" characteristic that transformed minimal, boring drone into something meaningful and transcendent. In that sense, Foehn provides an appropriate contrast. Of course Frederic Arbour understands the nature and subtleties of this style of music, as he has built his career on it.  This is the kind of music that, while being "boring" and repetitive, is able to fully immerse the listener and draw them into a new, detached realm. The first track "Skorneg" feels as if the listener is standing on the precipice of a giant, seemingly bottomless, chasm with an ancient stone stairway leading down into it. Through layers of deep drones and scattered, buried/manipulated sound effects, Skorneg is able to craft an absolutely massive, bleak soundscape. It's hard to explain verbally, but it has a sense of profundity to it that lesser works of drone lack. It is able to connect with you on a subconscious level and transfer feelings and images to you that more bombastic, and/or less developed music cannot. There isn't much point of reviewing each track individually because they are all of similar scope and tread nearly the same vicinity. This album gives me the sense of ancient, barren, arctic tundras sparsely littered with weathered, antediluvian ruins. I get a very clear picture in my head of a darkened, sallow sky and cold winds blowing snow and ice around you. This is very "heavy" and kind of claustrophobic music, similar to something like Collapar's Beyond the Event Horizon,  and of course the Visions material to some extent (though it certainly feels very terrestrial, whereas the aforementioned carry a distinctly outer space/cosmic vibe). With each of these tracks you get this sense of such overwhelming, almost unfathomable hugeness. Instead of his usual motif of travelling the cosmos, this feels more like falling inward, indefinitely, into the planet (and by extension I suppose, yourself). This feeling is especially evident on the album closer, the fittingly titled "Sherpas". Usually, I try to explain music in simple and concrete terms to provide an idea of what exactly it sounds like, however with this it's unecessary. The individual elements sort of don't matter; they mesh together such that they create something new entirely that goes beyond and far outweighs a mere collection of audio components; the result is a new, almost multi-dimensional piece of expression that you "feel" as much as, or perhaps even more than, you "hear". It's something that you experience.
My only critique, which isn't really one, is that this is extremely subtle music that you must fully devote yourself to. If you only listen in passing or inattentively than it will likely feel empty and boring. However, if you fully give yourself the space and time to engage than it's majesty will unfold and make itself known to you. I imagine this would be phenomenal to experience live. Unfortunately, the record is only 42 minutes long and it would have been nice if it included at least one more song. Hopefully this is not simply a one-off project!

An expert work of drone. If you like minimal, but highly atmospheric and darkly visionary music than buy this! Of course for fans of Cyclic Law and frigid, desolate soundscapes. Perhaps its due to the ever-present darkness, but this release just does it for me in ways that I find lacking in similarly themed albums such as the Glacial Movements stuff.

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